zeitwerk minute repeater

Photo: A. Lange & Sohne

Over the years, several watchmaking experts from high-horology companies have dazzled us with complex mechanisms and technical wizardry. Only one, however, has impressed us by playing the drums for a band’s live performance of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, followed by a three-minute percussion solo. 

At A. Lange & Sohne’s October launch event in Bangkok, Anthony de Haas, the brand’s director of product development since 2004, demonstrated the musical chops we had hitherto only read about. It was a fitting performance to mark the introduction of the brand’s latest release, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold.

Even in the rarefied world of minute repeaters — which are mechanical watches that chime the time —  the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater stands alone. It is the only mechanical wristwatch that combines a jumping numerals display with a decimal minute repeater, which sounds the hours, ten-minute intervals, and minutes. Conventional minute repeaters sound the hours, quarters, and minutes.

zeitwerk minute repeater
Photo: A. Lange & Sohne

A unique material

The model launched in Bangkok is the third edition in the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater range: In 2015, the brand introduced its first Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in platinum with a rhodium-coloured dial. This was followed by a 30-piece limited edition in white gold with a deep-blue dial in 2020. Also a limited edition of 30 pieces, the latest version is cased in honey gold, a material exclusive to A. Lange & Sohne, and features a grey dial.

“It’s a nasty material,” says de Haas of honey gold, with his signature dry humour, during an interview with The Peak. He is referring to the difficulty of working with the material, which has a subtle colour between that of pink gold and white gold, and “almost double the hardness of regular gold”. More than a decade ago, the material was created for the brand, which sought an 18K gold alloy with greater scratch resistance. De Haas elaborates, “If you compare the machinery for making a gold versus platinum case, the platinum results in three times the wear on the machine and the tools. Honey gold causes six times the wear.”

zeitwerk minute repeater
Anthony de Haas, director of product development at A. Lange & Sohne. (Photo: A. Lange & Sohne)

Comprising 75 per cent pure gold as well as copper and zinc, the unique composition and treatment of this sturdy gold alloy is what gives the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold its unique acoustic quality: It combines the clarity and reverberant qualities of a case crafted from a stiffer metal with the rich and warm tones of a regular gold case, which is relatively soft.

De Haas explains, “Every minute repeater has its own, one-of-a-kind sound. Apart from the gongs and gong hammers, the case material has the greatest impact on the sound. Similar to a musical instrument, different tone colours and sound impressions are created depending on the material used. That is also the case with our novelty in honey gold. It sounds different from all other materials — truly distinctive.”

A class of its own

zeitwerk miute repeater
Photo: A. Lange & Sohne

Aside from its case material, the new 44.2mm watch possesses all the innovative qualities of the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. Powered by the manually wound manufacture calibre L043.5, the timepiece features a button instead of the usual slide. This is because energy for the striking mechanism comes from its twin mainspring barrels rather than an autonomous power source that requires a slide to tension a separate spring.

To protect the intricate workings of the chiming mechanism, A. Lange & Sohne has also equipped this timepiece with safety features. One such feature prevents the striking mechanism from being activated when the watch’s power reserve falls below 12 hours so that the chiming sequence is not inadvertently interrupted.

Another brilliant feature involves delaying any change in the time display while the watch is chiming the time. The longest sequence of chimes, at 12.59, takes about 20 seconds to complete. If the repeater is activated just before the time is supposed to change, this change is delayed until the striking sequence is complete. Only when the watch has finished chiming does the minute and/or hour jump.

It is a unique feature not seen in other chiming wristwatches. It’s complicated, for sure, but for A. Lange & Sohne, going the extra technical mile is simply about creating something that makes the most sense for its users. With the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, says de Haas, “You always hear what you see.”